'Scream' Review: What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?
Scream on the surface seems like a lackluster idea that is cookie cutter at best: teens killing teens, sex, and graphic deaths. In the hands of the "horror maestro" Wes Craven, it becomes something that transcends the horror genre completely. Scream holds a mirror up to the horror genre and plays off of many of the horror tropes that had become common place within so many horror films. It refers back to previous influential films in the genre as well as being meta before being meta was something that was cool (looking at you Cabin in the Woods).
At its heart, Scream is a love letter to 80's teen slasher films. There was a resurgence of teen slasher films in the mid-nineties such as I Know What You Did Last Summer that rehashed the played out horror tropes that the 80s beat to death. They weren't very well done and didn't do anything new with a genre that needed a revitalization. When Scream was announced, it seemed on the surface to be another bland, formulaic addition to the genre; it is anything but. Scream does for slasher film what A Nightmare on Elm Street did for monster movies it completely reinvents the genre along with being a love letter to fans of the genre.
There is very little in Scream that doesn't poke fun at the genre or turn it completely on its head. The film is clearly a product of the "fuck you" attitude of the 90s with many of the characters having brash sarcastic attitudes that fit right into the lexicon of 90s teen movies. Even the women, who are normally portrayed in slasher films as damsels in distress, are strong and heady, not taking shit from any of the men in the film. Dewey Riley, played by David Arquette, is the opposite of the typical cop in the slasher film instead being portrayed as a bumbling lovable man-child who seems totally inept at his job. It's refreshing to see a film break from the deeply rooted horror tradition and do something wildly different.
The best scene, and arguably the most important scene of the film involves Jamie Kennedy, who gets unduly shit on constantly by everyone for Son of the Mask, as Stu Macher, the video store nerd who knows the rules to surviving a horror movie. It was the first time that horror movies truly broke the fourth wall and acknowledged the tropes that constantly plague the genre in a hilarious way.
Every performance in Scream is memorable from the Gale Weather's cameraman Kenny to the police chief of Woodsboro. However, the main ensemble of the film stands out as the most memorable cast in horror films bar none. Neve Campbell plays Sidney Prescott as a naive yet strong teenager who has survived a dark past. She is believable and you become invested in her unlike most leading heroines.The surviving main cast returned for every sequel which is a testament to their popularity with the fan base. David Arquette's character tested so well with the early audiences that they allowed his character to survive the film. The scriptwriter Kevin Williamson has an gifted way of crafting an interlocking script that misdirects the suspicion on the killer's identity. It's smart and clever without ever taking the audience for granted.
The final half of the film is set in one location and it's masterfully done. Even though it takes place in one house, Wes Craven brings out the suspense and terror of the scene like only he can. Once the scene hits full throttle, it doesn't let up until last the thirty seconds of the film. The reveal of the killers is well done it did catch me by surprise. They're deranged but give a reason for killing that, while being so 90's in nature, works today as well.
Scream is a fan that anyone who is a fan of film should watch, not just horror. It's scary while being very self-aware which creates a good amount of humor throughout the film. Ghostface is a memorable villain who has become a pop culture icon similar to Freddy Krueger. Scream revitalized the horror genre when it was dead in the water, and it continues to influence the genre today, some twenty years after its release.
Final Say: Watch It
Who Said What?
Ghostface: "What's your favorite scary movie?"